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Is an MPP and PhD in social policy worth it?


zh_awk
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I'll be completing my Masters in Public Policy by next spring, and am thinking about programs to pursue after that (I applied to a joint degree in sociology and social policy this past cycle and was waitlisted/ultimately rejected). I will likely apply to the sociology program again, but am wondering if having a PhD in social policy, on top of the MPP, is a good option to consider.

For background - I'm looking to a career in academic, as a professor, focusing on research surrounding education policy reform. I've enjoyed taking a sociological angle at studying this work thus far (I'm published and continue to do research in this space outside of my full-time job/school). However, I recognize that I could approach grad school in various ways in order to get to this goal - one of which may be considering a social policy PhD. 

My question is, would this be redundant after the MPP? The university I'm currently at (Brandeis) has a very strong social policy program; however, there's overlap in my MPP courses and PhD courses (maybe 5 of those I've taken so far are also doctoral core or elective classes). 

A second question - what types of other PhD programs should I consider applying to? For example, I'm now wondering if an Ed.D or PhD in education could be good options. 

I'd love any suggestions or insight into this, thanks so much in advance!

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6 hours ago, zh_awk said:

I'll be completing my Masters in Public Policy by next spring, and am thinking about programs to pursue after that (I applied to a joint degree in sociology and social policy this past cycle and was waitlisted/ultimately rejected). I will likely apply to the sociology program again, but am wondering if having a PhD in social policy, on top of the MPP, is a good option to consider.

For background - I'm looking to a career in academic, as a professor, focusing on research surrounding education policy reform. I've enjoyed taking a sociological angle at studying this work thus far (I'm published and continue to do research in this space outside of my full-time job/school). However, I recognize that I could approach grad school in various ways in order to get to this goal - one of which may be considering a social policy PhD. 

My question is, would this be redundant after the MPP? The university I'm currently at (Brandeis) has a very strong social policy program; however, there's overlap in my MPP courses and PhD courses (maybe 5 of those I've taken so far are also doctoral core or elective classes). 

A second question - what types of other PhD programs should I consider applying to? For example, I'm now wondering if an Ed.D or PhD in education could be good options. 

I'd love any suggestions or insight into this, thanks so much in advance!

The odds are greatly stacked against you in getting a tenure track academic position, even if you went to a top PhD School for Social Policy or Education. Those two areas are basically over-saturated with PhD candidates and the academic roles, even in an R2 university are crazy competitive.

Also, please appreciate, even though Brandeis Heller seems to do well for US News rankings, in the grand scheme of things, it is only good with social policy from an applied and local angle. If you want to work for a local Research Institute after graduation from PhD, that could work out. Unless you are the one black swan a year that manages to leap frog with super ground breaking research, your chances at getting tenure track at a major University from Brandeis Heller PhD will be rough. 

I don't know what it is but everyone I meet going to Brandeis Heller are like college athletes who all think they are going to the NBA or NFL. At this point, it is great you have research published, but unless you have an A- GPA average to with that as well, getting a PhD with funding at a top program will be pretty rough. If you manage to go to a top Program (like a real top Program, and not what US News says), then your risk becomes less. 

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16 hours ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

The odds are greatly stacked against you in getting a tenure track academic position, even if you went to a top PhD School for Social Policy or Education. Those two areas are basically over-saturated with PhD candidates and the academic roles, even in an R2 university are crazy competitive.

Also, please appreciate, even though Brandeis Heller seems to do well for US News rankings, in the grand scheme of things, it is only good with social policy from an applied and local angle. If you want to work for a local Research Institute after graduation from PhD, that could work out. Unless you are the one black swan a year that manages to leap frog with super ground breaking research, your chances at getting tenure track at a major University from Brandeis Heller PhD will be rough. 

I don't know what it is but everyone I meet going to Brandeis Heller are like college athletes who all think they are going to the NBA or NFL. At this point, it is great you have research published, but unless you have an A- GPA average to with that as well, getting a PhD with funding at a top program will be pretty rough. If you manage to go to a top Program (like a real top Program, and not what US News says), then your risk becomes less. 

Thanks for this - I absolutely recognize how competitive the fields are (SP and Education too) and that strong grades in addition to research are important in order to have a fighting chance for tenure-track jobs. I've currently got a 3.8 GPA. In addition to my Master's being close to done, I have many publications in journals and had three under review (2 in soc journals, 1 in an education journal) at the time of applying. One soc paper was accepted in between applying and receiving my waitlist status update in March, which I told the admissions committee when I was first notified of being waitlisted so that they could update my portfolio. I've worked in research for a long long time - all to say, I know I'm a strong candidate (and can of course be stronger). 

And, I also recognize Brandeis is a good place but there are far better - I work here full-time and chose to pursue the MPP part-time to avoid having to pay for my coursework AND have taken courses that overlap with the doctoral program, in order to better prepare for a future PhD. I definitely didn't come into this thinking Heller was the absolute best/at the very top or anything, and more or less wanted solid experience at a school that's at least on the map in order to keep moving up over time, but you are reminding me that because of this I have to aim higher to get a tenure-track job in the future.

Brandeis does things interestingly - for the joint degree in SP/sociology, you apply to one program and then the second after you've completed a year in the first. I applied to soc first because there's more funding for longer, and have many relationships with faculty and students in the department. I wasn't accepted off the waitlist this year solely due to funding (the grad admissions committee shared this with me, in addition to the two sociology professors in the department who wrote rec letters for me), and I made the mistake of putting all my eggs in one basket with Brandeis. Having established connections and strong relationships with faculty and professors in both departments here over the past 5 years is what compelled me to focus in on Brandeis, but I'll likely apply to top schools next round that also have joint degrees, including Duke, Brown and HKS, all of which my research mentor has lamented I didn't go for this year, believing I would have had a high chance of acceptance. Who knows if that's really true though! I'll find out next year.

A follow up question for you - it sounds like you're also saying a PhD in SP wouldn't be redundant after finishing my MPP, am I understanding that correctly? I think the joint degree is still best for me, given the sociology side gives me an academic element to the degree, and the type of research I want to carry out is based in sociological theory. But, I could be wrong - perhaps a PhD in just sociology would suffice? Thoughts?

And - what other schools would you consider true "top" programs? I'm preparing for next year already and want to begin connecting with professors whose research fits my interests at schools that I should apply to this time around.

Thanks!

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34 minutes ago, zh_awk said:

Thanks for this - I absolutely recognize how competitive the fields are (SP and Education too) and that strong grades in addition to research are important in order to have a fighting chance for tenure-track jobs. I've currently got a 3.8 GPA. In addition to my Master's being close to done, I have many publications in journals and had three under review (2 in soc journals, 1 in an education journal) at the time of applying. One soc paper was accepted in between applying and receiving my waitlist status update in March, which I told the admissions committee when I was first notified of being waitlisted so that they could update my portfolio. I've worked in research for a long long time - all to say, I know I'm a strong candidate (and can of course be stronger). 

And, I also recognize Brandeis is a good place but there are far better - I work here full-time and chose to pursue the MPP part-time to avoid having to pay for my coursework AND have taken courses that overlap with the doctoral program, in order to better prepare for a future PhD. I definitely didn't come into this thinking Heller was the absolute best/at the very top or anything, and more or less wanted solid experience at a school that's at least on the map in order to keep moving up over time, but you are reminding me that because of this I have to aim higher to get a tenure-track job in the future.

Brandeis does things interestingly - for the joint degree in SP/sociology, you apply to one program and then the second after you've completed a year in the first. I applied to soc first because there's more funding for longer, and have many relationships with faculty and students in the department. I wasn't accepted off the waitlist this year solely due to funding (the grad admissions committee shared this with me, in addition to the two sociology professors in the department who wrote rec letters for me), and I made the mistake of putting all my eggs in one basket with Brandeis. Having established connections and strong relationships with faculty and professors in both departments here over the past 5 years is what compelled me to focus in on Brandeis, but I'll likely apply to top schools next round that also have joint degrees, including Duke, Brown and HKS, all of which my research mentor has lamented I didn't go for this year, believing I would have had a high chance of acceptance. Who knows if that's really true though! I'll find out next year.

A follow up question for you - it sounds like you're also saying a PhD in SP wouldn't be redundant after finishing my MPP, am I understanding that correctly? I think the joint degree is still best for me, given the sociology side gives me an academic element to the degree, and the type of research I want to carry out is based in sociological theory. But, I could be wrong - perhaps a PhD in just sociology would suffice? Thoughts?

And - what other schools would you consider true "top" programs? I'm preparing for next year already and want to begin connecting with professors whose research fits my interests at schools that I should apply to this time around.

Thanks!

I am afraid of feeding the beast here but to answer you question straight forwardly - if you want a shot in hell of getting a tenure track position, you get a PhD period. Honestly, it doesn't matter what it is in - it is more important that you have a funding and faculty who are willing to support you. It would have been easier if you did it straight from undergrad, but getting it with an MPP is a worn track that has been done before. If you are okay with being an adjunct for life via teaching you can live with a Masters degree. Also, you might get by a community or lower end regional college as a visiting faculty member.

Right now, I think you are misguided in that you are thinking too much about getting into schools and not about the outcomes for teaching. You are basically the same as a D2 College football player who thinks he can make the NFL (it happens, but odds are crazy stacked against you).  I think working there doesn't help because most people I know who work at a University drink the Kool-aid until it is too late. 

First of all - pure theory is over saturated and becoming less and less popular among all the fields that relevant to you (Policy, Sociology, and lets add in Political Science for fun). If you want to do non-quant, you better be at the tip top of your game (and its more than just the # of publications that matter, but the quality of publications, and I hope you got academic rock stars supporting you - both in and out of Brandeis). Even if you go to HKS/Harvard Sociology, UC Berkeley, or Columbia - you are still heavily in danger of falling into becoming an adjunct because the market for non-quant in humanities is simply awful. What makes it worse for you is that you would be competing with Ed, Policy, Sociology, and maybe Econ people for teaching roles. 

Honestly, I find tenure professors to not be the best advisors because they have made it and are living relatively fat and happy. They are less empathetic to the plight of young academics these days and too often promote false hope. What I recommend you do instead is talked to other Heller MPP grads who went the PhD route and see where they have been (you can check LinkedIn) - and ask them if it was worth it. 

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5 minutes ago, GradSchoolGrad said:

Right now, I think you are misguided in that you are thinking too much about getting into schools and not about the outcomes for teaching.

Can you clarify what exactly you mean by this ("...not about the outcomes for teaching," specifically)? Did you mean this in terms of the competitiveness of the tenure-track job market, or something else? 

And I'll echo your mention of tenure professors not being great advisors - the professor who's been mentoring me for the past several years and has overseen my research/allowed me to co-write alongside him is an assistant professor himself and recognizes the difficulty of getting beyond where he himself is at this point. I've avoided tenure professors at Brandeis knowing their plates would either be too full to be proper/effective mentors, or they just wouldn't care enough. I've also worked with/taken classes with many Heller MPPs (and Heller/Soc PhDs) who are friends, some of whom are past defending their dissertation and others have graduated and moved on - a good chunk of them have made their way into academic roles, whether it's currently as a lecturer or if they've been out of school for long enough, into an adjunct professor job. I've talked their ears off for literally years trying to make sure this is the right path for me and if it's worth it, so I know I sound stubborn right now in wanting to stick to my plan, but I'm giving your advice all of my attention too and am processing everything you're saying. Teaching and doing research in what appears to be a rather niche area right now (meaning I've identified a gap in the soc literature/research) has been my end goal for probably 10+ years for me so I've really put a lot of effort into asking all of the questions to all of the people I've come across over the years to figuring out what the best approach to getting there is, and ensuring this is in fact what I want.

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20 minutes ago, zh_awk said:

Can you clarify what exactly you mean by this ("...not about the outcomes for teaching," specifically)? Did you mean this in terms of the competitiveness of the tenure-track job market, or something else? 

And I'll echo your mention of tenure professors not being great advisors - the professor who's been mentoring me for the past several years and has overseen my research/allowed me to co-write alongside him is an assistant professor himself and recognizes the difficulty of getting beyond where he himself is at this point. I've avoided tenure professors at Brandeis knowing their plates would either be too full to be proper/effective mentors, or they just wouldn't care enough. I've also worked with/taken classes with many Heller MPPs (and Heller/Soc PhDs) who are friends, some of whom are past defending their dissertation and others have graduated and moved on - a good chunk of them have made their way into academic roles, whether it's currently as a lecturer or if they've been out of school for long enough, into an adjunct professor job. I've talked their ears off for literally years trying to make sure this is the right path for me and if it's worth it, so I know I sound stubborn right now in wanting to stick to my plan, but I'm giving your advice all of my attention too and am processing everything you're saying. Teaching and doing research in what appears to be a rather niche area right now (meaning I've identified a gap in the soc literature/research) has been my end goal for probably 10+ years for me so I've really put a lot of effort into asking all of the questions to all of the people I've come across over the years to figuring out what the best approach to getting there is, and ensuring this is in fact what I want.

By outcomes, I mean where you land in terms of a job.

I am concerned how you haven't brought up that you goal is to get a tenure track academic position. Because short of becoming a tenure track academic, your ability to make impact in terms of having widely read work, being asked to participate in impactful podcasts, and influencing students with a level of meaningful authority will be limited. More importantly for you, you'll be at the bottom of the barrel in terms of income.

A few adjunct professors make it to tenure track and some see the light and leave academia. However, those who are stuck toiling in adjunct/visiting lecture land aren't the ones that make the impact in the field - no matter how good of a school they went to. Also please keep in mind, no one cares if you discovered a gap in the literature. The only thing that matters if the academic market cares. Is your "gap in the literature" insight significant enough to catapult you to be elevated in Academia. Since it is non-quant oriented, my bet is no, and most likely some random podcast or someone internationally has probably already discussed it.

My recommendation is to think about how you can either a. make the impact you want with an MPP or b. with a PhD but with outcomes focused on working at research institute and not Academia.

Oh by the way, the higher education hiring total numbers will only decrease for tenure track positions because:

a. Professors are living longer and not dying/leaving their positions

b. There is a surplus of academics from the millennial generation

c. Between demographics, decreased interest in college in men, and drawdown of Chinese international students - there are less undergrads to teach 

d. Universities are scaling back tenure track positions. 

e. And specific for you, too many people like you who all have social policy insights. Not to offend you, but you are a dime a dozen. You might have  publications and stuff, but again, unless those are the top publications and you already are getting recognized in the field, you odds for tenure track aren't anything exceptional. 

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If you are considering becoming a professor, you will need a PhD. The fact that the job market is scarce for tenure-track position could be argued for any PhDs. If I had listened to that kind of talk I would never ended up in a tenure-track position at a top 20 R1 institution before I was even done with my dissertation. If that is what you want to do and you have the right profile, I suggest applying to a PhD at another school and being strategic as an applicant: picking a wide variety of schools that are the best fit for you, making sure that your SOP is on point, and that you have excellent recommendations. Yes, the job market is competitive but if you are committed and work hard there is no reason to forget about your dreams.

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15 hours ago, Dr_Hugh_ said:

If you are considering becoming a professor, you will need a PhD. The fact that the job market is scarce for tenure-track position could be argued for any PhDs. If I had listened to that kind of talk I would never ended up in a tenure-track position at a top 20 R1 institution before I was even done with my dissertation. If that is what you want to do and you have the right profile, I suggest applying to a PhD at another school and being strategic as an applicant: picking a wide variety of schools that are the best fit for you, making sure that your SOP is on point, and that you have excellent recommendations. Yes, the job market is competitive but if you are committed and work hard there is no reason to forget about your dreams.

  • This is like star NFL quarterbacks telling freshman redshirt quarterbacks that they don't need to get their degree because they have a shot to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. Sure, a few will get it, but there will be lots of disappointment of casualties on the path to it. For every Tom Brady there is 50 or so that fell of the tracks. I don't want to stop anyone from being the next Tom Brady, but Tom Brady at least was coming from a solid place to the NFL - quarterback at Michigan. @zh_awkis leaning more from Black Swan territory trying to be a Top 20 R-1 from his current position (unless his research area is as ground breaking as he think it is - which I doubt).
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1 hour ago, GradSchoolGrad said:
  • This is like star NFL quarterbacks telling freshman redshirt quarterbacks that they don't need to get their degree because they have a shot to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. Sure, a few will get it, but there will be lots of disappointment of casualties on the path to it. For every Tom Brady there is 50 or so that fell of the tracks. I don't want to stop anyone from being the next Tom Brady, but Tom Brady at least was coming from a solid place to the NFL - quarterback at Michigan. @zh_awkis leaning more from Black Swan territory trying to be a Top 20 R-1 from his current position (unless his research area is as ground breaking as he think it is - which I doubt).

First, she/her. Second, while I appreciate the consistent reminder that this is a challenging track I'm on, my main goal with my post here was to understand if a PhD in social policy would be a better fit for my goals, as opposed to one that combines sociology into the program, or even education. I am 1000% committed to pursuing a PhD and do know that seeking a tenure-track professor position is going to be difficult to achieve, but I'm also aware that the degree (I am currently leaning towards applying to joint SP/sociology degrees again) allows me other options for a career should that end up becoming a low likelihood when I get closer to finishing the degree. All to say, the field that I pursue in my PhD is what I wanted some clarification on here, though I'm of course more than open and willing to hear out any additional advice from folks here. 

What I'm also hearing from you is that I don't sound like someone who has a chance of coming close to a tenure-track position given my qualifications at this time. Is the PhD not the stage of one's career that really defines this likelihood? I'm not trying to be snarky and am really just trying to understand your perspective; yes, I have a ways to go, but my understanding is that where I'm currently at is not going to determine this and it's too early to be able to say what I'm capable of achieving. Further, for the past couple of years, I have been given the impression from my coworkers and professors that what I have accomplished by this point in my academic/professional career is more advanced than most Master's who are applying to doctoral programs in these fields - I have 10+ years of research experience, over half of which is in either policy or sociological research, various works published or in press to be published in both fields (please don't reiterate it isn't significant unless it's groundbreaking, that point has been made clear to me in your responses, and some of my research is in fact quite significant), a 3.8 GPA in my MPP currently, and most recently applied to a program this past cycle with a very strongly written SOP outlining my research goals in addition to extremely strong recommendations (all three of my writers shared their letters with me, and one of these folks is a fairly well-known scholar in sociology). I've built a wide network across both fields, most significantly including a professional relationship with the incoming president of the ASA who's based at Brown. Do you really believe that I'm only in "Black Swan territory"? I might not be in as solid of a position as Brady was having extremely strong experience coming from UMich helping him into the NFL, but I don't think I'm as inadequate as I'm getting the impression you seem to have of me. @Dr_Hugh_, your insight on where you see me standing would be great to have as a second opinion.

Thank you both for your thoughts.

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2 minutes ago, zh_awk said:

First, she/her. Second, while I appreciate the consistent reminder that this is a challenging track I'm on, my main goal with my post here was to understand if a PhD in social policy would be a better fit for my goals, as opposed to one that combines sociology into the program, or even education. I am 1000% committed to pursuing a PhD and do know that seeking a tenure-track professor position is going to be difficult to achieve, but I'm also aware that the degree (I am currently leaning towards applying to joint SP/sociology degrees again) allows me other options for a career should that end up becoming a low likelihood when I get closer to finishing the degree. All to say, the field that I pursue in my PhD is what I wanted some clarification on here, though I'm of course more than open and willing to hear out any additional advice from folks here. 

What I'm also hearing from you is that I don't sound like someone who has a chance of coming close to a tenure-track position given my qualifications at this time. Is the PhD not the stage of one's career that really defines this likelihood? I'm not trying to be snarky and am really just trying to understand your perspective; yes, I have a ways to go, but my understanding is that where I'm currently at is not going to determine this and it's too early to be able to say what I'm capable of achieving. Further, for the past couple of years, I have been given the impression from my coworkers and professors that what I have accomplished by this point in my academic/professional career is more advanced than most Master's who are applying to doctoral programs in these fields - I have 10+ years of research experience, over half of which is in either policy or sociological research, various works published or in press to be published in both fields (please don't reiterate it isn't significant unless it's groundbreaking, that point has been made clear to me in your responses, and some of my research is in fact quite significant), a 3.8 GPA in my MPP currently, and most recently applied to a program this past cycle with a very strongly written SOP outlining my research goals in addition to extremely strong recommendations (all three of my writers shared their letters with me, and one of these folks is a fairly well-known scholar in sociology). I've built a wide network across both fields, most significantly including a professional relationship with the incoming president of the ASA who's based at Brown. Do you really believe that I'm only in "Black Swan territory"? I might not be in as solid of a position as Brady was having extremely strong experience coming from UMich helping him into the NFL, but I don't think I'm as inadequate as I'm getting the impression you seem to have of me. @Dr_Hugh_, your insight on where you see me standing would be great to have as a second opinion.

Thank you both for your thoughts.

Ultimately, the devil is in the details. 

1. As to PhD in social policy vs. PhD that combines SP and Sociology - I would argue is a moot point. Apologizes, if I only insinuated that and didn't spell it out from the get go. It is more important to make sure you have the support that you care about and cares about you in whatever program you are applying for. So basically, its smarter to choose faculty in high places willing to support you and can competently give you guidance than overall program description. The question is if you can find faculty to fit that role.  And if you can, you have to balance that with if the institution lends you enough credibility (and I mean this in multiple ways) to support you with getting a tenure track role.

2. I'm not trying to disrespect your accomplishments. I can tell you got a solid head on your shoulders. The thing is that inputs, however strong, even if they land you in a program of your choice, may not lead to the desired outputs (lets just say Tenure Track at an R20). So based on what you provided right now, I would categorize them as either - devil in the details and market headwinds that work against you.

Market Headwinds

- You are in non-quant theory land in an academic space is getting more quant focused with a bottoms up approach 

- You are in a space that is oversaturated and getting more crowded while undergrad demand is shrinking

Devil in the Details

- Its great you got research done. On paper that does put you in a more advanced stage for applying for PhDs. However, as for getting the desired outcome, it is based upon if your research has academic and popular market appeal. I also don't know where you got published. In perfect world, you have a combo of being co-author in top journals plus some popular press going on. A podcast or featured on a documentary would help too. 

- GPA - its great you have a 3.8 GPA, but the most rigorous programs are Quant Heavy (even if you do want to do Theory - although I guess you can get away with Political Theory), so at a certain point is about how you navigate the Quant expectations and match it to the grounding of your GPA

- Relationship with the incoming ASA - yes that can help if you focus on sociology to kick things in gear - but then at the end of the day it depends on who wants to support you with $$$ and positions. Part of this depends on how academically popular your stuff is. Part of it depends on which angle your research/future research is most popular with. 

Bottom line is that I'm just highlighting things to watch out for in a world where the odds are stacked against you. If you want to be like Tom Brady vs. the 50 fallen off the tracks, its about knowing your weaknesses and making the right moves (although I personally couldn't go vegan). However - then there is the question of if the juice is worth the squeeze. I'll leave it to you. Every PhD candidate that I have met, those more and less qualified than you have the mentality that they will get what they want (tenure track) and beat the odds. If you are truly rock star and you are in demand by 3rd parties already (different than doing well academically and knowing people), then you might be the next Tom Brady and with the right adjustments you are on track. Otherwise - there is nothing wrong with pivoting to something that will make you happier and make bigger impact in the long run. PhD isn't the only game in town.

Also, when I talk about the market being bad, is not bad, its utterly awful at even the top PhD (yes its English dept not your neck of the woods, but the story repeats itself):
https://www.chronicle.com/article/columbia-had-little-success-placing-english-ph-d-s-on-the-tenure-track-alarm-followed-and-the-university-responded/ 

 

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On 4/20/2022 at 11:40 AM, zh_awk said:

First, she/her. Second, while I appreciate the consistent reminder that this is a challenging track I'm on, my main goal with my post here was to understand if a PhD in social policy would be a better fit for my goals, as opposed to one that combines sociology into the program, or even education. I am 1000% committed to pursuing a PhD and do know that seeking a tenure-track professor position is going to be difficult to achieve, but I'm also aware that the degree (I am currently leaning towards applying to joint SP/sociology degrees again) allows me other options for a career should that end up becoming a low likelihood when I get closer to finishing the degree. All to say, the field that I pursue in my PhD is what I wanted some clarification on here, though I'm of course more than open and willing to hear out any additional advice from folks here. 

What I'm also hearing from you is that I don't sound like someone who has a chance of coming close to a tenure-track position given my qualifications at this time. Is the PhD not the stage of one's career that really defines this likelihood? I'm not trying to be snarky and am really just trying to understand your perspective; yes, I have a ways to go, but my understanding is that where I'm currently at is not going to determine this and it's too early to be able to say what I'm capable of achieving. Further, for the past couple of years, I have been given the impression from my coworkers and professors that what I have accomplished by this point in my academic/professional career is more advanced than most Master's who are applying to doctoral programs in these fields - I have 10+ years of research experience, over half of which is in either policy or sociological research, various works published or in press to be published in both fields (please don't reiterate it isn't significant unless it's groundbreaking, that point has been made clear to me in your responses, and some of my research is in fact quite significant), a 3.8 GPA in my MPP currently, and most recently applied to a program this past cycle with a very strongly written SOP outlining my research goals in addition to extremely strong recommendations (all three of my writers shared their letters with me, and one of these folks is a fairly well-known scholar in sociology). I've built a wide network across both fields, most significantly including a professional relationship with the incoming president of the ASA who's based at Brown. Do you really believe that I'm only in "Black Swan territory"? I might not be in as solid of a position as Brady was having extremely strong experience coming from UMich helping him into the NFL, but I don't think I'm as inadequate as I'm getting the impression you seem to have of me. @Dr_Hugh_, your insight on where you see me standing would be great to have as a second opinion.

Thank you both for your thoughts.

@zh_awk Sure! Happy to help! Just DM me:)

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On 4/20/2022 at 11:40 AM, zh_awk said:

First, she/her. Second, while I appreciate the consistent reminder that this is a challenging track I'm on, my main goal with my post here was to understand if a PhD in social policy would be a better fit for my goals, as opposed to one that combines sociology into the program, or even education. I am 1000% committed to pursuing a PhD and do know that seeking a tenure-track professor position is going to be difficult to achieve, but I'm also aware that the degree (I am currently leaning towards applying to joint SP/sociology degrees again) allows me other options for a career should that end up becoming a low likelihood when I get closer to finishing the degree. All to say, the field that I pursue in my PhD is what I wanted some clarification on here, though I'm of course more than open and willing to hear out any additional advice from folks here. 

What I'm also hearing from you is that I don't sound like someone who has a chance of coming close to a tenure-track position given my qualifications at this time. Is the PhD not the stage of one's career that really defines this likelihood? I'm not trying to be snarky and am really just trying to understand your perspective; yes, I have a ways to go, but my understanding is that where I'm currently at is not going to determine this and it's too early to be able to say what I'm capable of achieving. Further, for the past couple of years, I have been given the impression from my coworkers and professors that what I have accomplished by this point in my academic/professional career is more advanced than most Master's who are applying to doctoral programs in these fields - I have 10+ years of research experience, over half of which is in either policy or sociological research, various works published or in press to be published in both fields (please don't reiterate it isn't significant unless it's groundbreaking, that point has been made clear to me in your responses, and some of my research is in fact quite significant), a 3.8 GPA in my MPP currently, and most recently applied to a program this past cycle with a very strongly written SOP outlining my research goals in addition to extremely strong recommendations (all three of my writers shared their letters with me, and one of these folks is a fairly well-known scholar in sociology). I've built a wide network across both fields, most significantly including a professional relationship with the incoming president of the ASA who's based at Brown. Do you really believe that I'm only in "Black Swan territory"? I might not be in as solid of a position as Brady was having extremely strong experience coming from UMich helping him into the NFL, but I don't think I'm as inadequate as I'm getting the impression you seem to have of me. @Dr_Hugh_, your insight on where you see me standing would be great to have as a second opinion.

Thank you both for your thoughts.

I just had lunch with my former colleague who finished his PhD in Sociology with a focus on education  (non-quant) and what he told me was astounding and made me think of you.

Background for context:

- He is from a top 5 PhD institution and went to top 10 undergrad. Essentially with near perfect GPA in both. 

- He is on his 6th post-doc (ya he was saying what used to be rare is becoming more common)

- Between his post-docs and PhD, he has had advisors that are academic leaders of their niche/area - including some well known people that even I heard of

Basic Story from him

- Sociology is crazy over saturated. He applied to a smaller regional R2 school out in the mid-west, and that there were at least 100 other sociology w/ ed focus PhDs applying that exceeded the requirements. 

- Among his friend group (sociology focused on education), none of them have managed tenure track positions - though a few have managed non-tenure instructor positions

- At 40+, he is still living in a friend's garage and has done so for past 5 years (he kindly asked me to cover his lunch and asked to share some of my streaming accounts). 

 

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